Interview with Brian Klemmer – Founder of Klemmer and Associates

I am a fan of and participant in Klemmer & Associates (K&A)  leadership training programs.  The founder of Klemmer & Associates was Brian Klemmer.  Unfortunately Brian passed awayin 2011 very suddenly.   He left a plan for the company to continue without him and it is already expanding to continue his legacy.

Brian was the author of the Compassionate Samurai.  This book describes a way of living that charts the difficult path to a life of financial, professional and social success that won’t compromise one’s ethics.When he founded Klemmer & Associates, his dream was to create an army of compassionate Samurai to make a difference in this world.

I had the opportunity to talk with Brian on the phone for a half hour last year and discuss his organization and what Klemmer & Associates can offer to people.   I am reposting this in tribute to Brian and to help spread the message of dream for the world.

Brian, since we are both prior military, I am retired Special Forces and you have a West Point background I want to see how that has helped you through your path in bringing about your company.–so the first question I had for you was how did the attendance at West Point and your military service benefit you in developing and presenting the K&A program?

Well, a couple things pop into my mind. Number one, West Point was a lot about values. You know, it was always about doing the right thing versus easier thing. And so, obviously, a lot of those same values are integral to the work that we’re doing today. We’re a values company, a leadership company, and I think that that’s one of the challenges that America has today.

I heard a pastor just the other day was downgrading capitalism. And, to me, I don’t know whether you want to call it Christianity in this article, but it’s probably a wider sector, but in terms of–if you want, drop the Christianity out–there’s nothing wrong with capitalism. Capitalism is a phenomenal venture, as long as it’s got values with it. And unfortunately what’s happened today is we’ve got the capitalism, but we don’t have the values. And so when people are greed-motivated and have capitalism, that’s as bad as anything else with greed, you know, which you ran into in communism, socialism and everything else. They’re just like different ways of compensating people inappropriately. And so the values at West Point of service, contribution, duty to our country, integrity–they were all core kind of issues to what see as the model of human being.

So this first piece is values. So then the second piece that I would say that connects is the experiential nature of all my West Point training. You know, they didn’t just teach you, Okay, this is why you put a gas mask on fast, they threw you in a tent full of teargas, you know, basically and cry, throw up and the rest of it and then said, Okay, well, we can either put one on fast, or you’re going to just cry. So, you know, I am an experiential nut.  I think that that’s what changes the heart of a human being.

Good. That phases into another question I had, you talked about values and I want to ask about ethics. In the military, service men and women are on their ethics. It seems like some of the things we’ve had happen recently with the financial crisis–there’s been a break-down of ethics. Can expand a little bit about values and how that translates into ethics and how that could help on the corporate world?

Yeah, and by the way, the military’s not exempt from ethics problems.  If you go back to the Vietnam war, of course, there was tremendous pressure put on for, like, body counts, and so numbers got inflated. To me that’s an ethics violation. And, you know, more recently at the–who’s the NFL football player for the Arizona Cardinals that became a Ranger–incredible values here–here he gives up fame, fortune, whatever, to be of service and but then when he was killed by our own gunfire, instead of the military coming clean, they covered it up, you know? And they wanted to use it as PR play and so I think that every human being, there is pressure put on to not tell the truth, and in business, in sports, in the military and so it’s important to train people to stand up to that pressure and still tell the truth.

And of course, if you look at the financial situation of this country, there’s a lot of talk made about the greed of Wall Street CEO’s, and I certainly agree with that; I think it’s unconscionable that somebody would make millions of dollars for a company that goes under. You know, or that is losing money, and they still make millions. I mean, if the company’s not profiting, there should be correlation I mean, maybe if you turned the company around and instead of losing a hundred million, they lost only five million–okay, they guy deserves–gathers up a bonus for that. But not when you’re ruining shareholder value and blah, blah, blah.

But the point I wanted to make is it wasn’t just the Wall Street CEOs, it’s the ordinary person that got greedy, and they wanted to get into home just because their neighbor was making money and they were afraid getting left behind, so they got into a loan that they couldn’t afford. And it wasn’t just the individual person getting the loan, it was the broker that sold them the home, when they knew that they didn’t have the qualifying income, but because you didn’t have data, they overlooked it. And then it was the brokerage industry in making up loans that were ridiculous loans to begin with, because they were greedy and they just wanted the commission they would make off it.

And so to me there’s the fundamental erosion of…the definition of success to most people today is what I call accumulation, acquisition and deception. It’s not about contribution. And, of course, I’m exaggerating. There’s plenty of times where people are contribution oriented. But for the most part, what people are being brainwashed to do is just ‘how much can I accumulate?’–not ‘what kind of a difference can I make?’  That’s why we’re running into the problems that we’re running into. I think until that’s straightened out, we’ll continue to have problems.

When I was with Special Forces, one of our key concepts was Hearts and Minds. And the US first talked about that back about the same time you were in Vietnam–maybe it a little before that. But that’s a phrase or concept that we remember, but then we tend to forget. And right now, with the conflicts going on in Iraq and Afghanistan, also with the global war on terror, what can K&A offer the military and the nation in regards to the concepts of Hearts and Minds and being a international global member?

When you talk Hearts and Minds, and I like history, but I’m no historian. But when I look back, the war insurgency that we won or sort of won was in the Philippines. And in the Philippines, you know, we were building hospitals and doing everything else. I’m not sure whether that can equate apples to apples with what’s going on in Afghanistan and Iraq right now, although I do know that–I listen to–a few months ago I heard the head of counter-terrorism for the United States, a 38-year old colonel.  It was fascinating. He was talking about the current general’s philosophy really is about winning the hearts and minds of the people. So, can K&A add to that with the people? I think so. And I got faith in our military–you know, you see this noise at Guantanamo Bay and all the rest of it, but I think overall the military is pretty darn good at the hearts and minds.

I think the military does a good job of that and can we add to it, sure. I think we definitely need to think the bigger picture, and I think that, like one of the huge ways that I see that we can make an impact within that, and I’ll call it broader than the military.  There is so much turf warfare, so to speak, within FBI, CIA, Homeland Security, whatever, and I see that as a huge problem.  I mean, it’s a lot of times we’re collecting data, but we don’t take advantage of the data, because one department doesn’t have access to the other, and I think that, you know, with all the exercises and games we do, that if we had the high enough people at that level doing their work, that I think that’s a significant, significant play or value-add that K&A can make to the armed services.

Brian, I’d like to talk about the negligence in the news right now with British Petroleum and up here in Washington State–Washington Mutual. How does an organization establish a culture where mistakes are around, but the negligence does not occur?

Yeah, that’s a great one. I work on within K&A what I call high accountability with low judgment. What seems to happen in organizations is you either go high accountability and high judgment or no judgment but no accountability. And so–and then of course allowing people to feel responsible is always in my mind, I’m just taking what little I know in our company, if you have a safety net on the things, you can chances–it’s like in a circus. If you’ve got a safety net, then you can take chances. If you don’t have a safety net, you can’t take as many chances. You know, so, for example, the bigger cash reserves that I can build up for K&A, the bigger financial risk I can take, because I’ve got a safety net I’ll able to fall back on. If I have no reserves at all, then I couldn’t take any chances at all, because one little error and you put the whole thing out of whack.

Now, safety systems are not just financial, they’re with people. One of the things I’m going to have to work in again within our own company is people get confused what authority is with responsibility. Responsibility is following the whole outcome out of your own choices. It cannot be delegated. It’s really a viewpoint. Authority is something that’s delegated. So, for example, I can delegate to, say to a shipping clerk here, Okay, you got authority to make a 500 dollar decision without talking to anybody. You don’t have the ability to make a 5,000 dollar decision without talking to your boss. At the management level, it would be a different game. It would be, Okay, manager, you can make a 5,000 dollar decision on your own, but you can’t make a 50,000 dollar decision on your own.

On the other hand, the more you can get them into responsibility without the fault blame, hey, they’ll make mistakes, but now they’re also looking for all the choices to, of course, correct that. And you’re backed up because you have other people.

Brain Klemmer studied leadership at the United States Military Academy (1968-1972). His company Klemmer & Associates Leadership Seminars Inc., has conducted its works for more than 100,000 people around the world for over 20 years. Their clients include well-known corporations such as Aetna Life Insurance, American Suzuki Corporation, General Electric, Walt Disney Attractions, and many more.  The Champions Workshop is an introduction to K&A’s work.

Source by Mike Martel

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